Doctor questions lack of social distancing on Westminster Bridge as UK applauds NHS heroes

17 April 2020, 09:56

By Kate Buck

A doctor has questioned the gathering of people who took to Westminster Bridge to clap for carers, after some appeared to be flouting social distancing rules.

While many people across the nation applauded from their windows and front doors in a show of national support for the NHS and other key workers, a large group took to the central London bridge to join together in their thanks to those tackling coronavirus.

People gathered together on Westminster Bridge to clap for carers
People gathered together on Westminster Bridge to clap for carers. Picture: Damir Rafi/Twitter

Many attendees were emergency workers themselves, and they turned on the blue lights of their vehicles to light the London skyline as the sun went down.

But questions have been raised about the safety of those on the bridge, after footage posted on Twitter seemed to show a great deal of people in close proximity to one another.

Damir Rafi, a junior doctor working at the nearby St Thomas' Hospital, shared his video with the caption: "I'm a doctor working at the hospital that's right there.

"And yes, I was also somewhat perplexed by the lack of social distancing."

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Among the crowd were people holding young children, cyclists and emergency service workers from the Metropolitan Police London Ambulance Service and The London Fire Brigade.

A spokesperson for the Met Police told LBC News that it did appear some were not following the social distancing rules whilst on the bridge.

They added: "Officers, along with other emergency service workers, came together last night on Westminster Bridge to celebrate the work of all key workers.

"A large number of members of the public also gathered to express their gratitude.

"While many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.

Emergency services lit up the London skyline with blue lights
Emergency services lit up the London skyline with blue lights. Picture: PA
Police gather together on the bridge
Police gather together on the bridge. Picture: PA

"We regularly remind our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical, and will continue do so."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said police have questions to answer over why they ignored social distancing guidelines.

Speaking to LBC's James O'Brien, Mr Khan said it was clear that social distancing guidelines were not being followed.

He said: "Clearly the advice isn't optional and it doesn't appear to have been followed. A number of people on the clip that I've seen were not 2 metres apart. These rules to keep 2 metres apart are there for all of our wellbeing and health and we've got to be cognisant of that.

"I'm sure there will be questions to be asked."

When James asked how police officers were involved and not doing anything to stop it, the Mayor said: "I've seen the same footage you have and I'm equally concerned that the social distancing rules don't appear to have been observed.

"I've got no confirmation of this, but I suspect the Met Police Service and the London Ambulance Service whose people were there will be asking the sort of questions that you, not unreasonably, are asking.

"I think both the MPS and the LAS will be asking questions about social distancing guidelines not being observed."

Some took to social media themselves to express their outrage at what took place on the bridge.

Lou Christison said: "Absolutely shocking. My son has not even been out for fresh air in four weeks and all these idiots at Westminster Bridge.

"How do you explain that to teenagers who you're telling to stay in when they see this?"

TV presenter Lizzie Cundy added: "This is on Westminster bridge tonight! What happened to social distancing? We are suppose to be staying at home!."

Another social media user added: "I'm all for clapping for our NHS but was anybody else shocked by these scenes on Westminster Bridge this social distancing whatsoever and the police were clapping with them! Unbelievable!"

The UK has now been in lockdown since 23 March, and yesterday First Secretary Dominic Raab announced the lockdown would be extended for another three weeks.

As part of the measures, people have been told to only leave their homes for exercise and shopping for groceries, and remain at least 2 metres apart from others at all times.